Yesterday I hiked up to the Griessental valley, a photogenic alpine valley that I vowed to return to after seeing it the first time during the Brunistock traverse a few weeks ago. This valley is directly above the town of Engelberg; in fact you can see the Rugghubelhütte (above) from town!
Today I met up with a skier from Montana for a ski/splitboard tour near Engelberg. I had scoped some north facing lines during Sunday’s hike up the Surenen valley, and I thought they would offer the best potential for any remaining powder after nearly three weeks of blue skies since the last storm.
Skier: Sam Cox.
We skinned up the valley and of course we chose to go for the highest couloir there! The snow was promising on the way up, but as we got higher into the couloir it turned to hard icy snow. After pounding steps into the slope for a few hundred feet, without crampons or ice axes, we decided that it just wasn’t happening! A crusty descent took us back down out of the couloir, and then we scored some nice turns down the open slope of smooth old wind-rippled powder.
Looking back up at our carves down the nice section. We had come out of the couloir at top right. All in all it was about an 1800′ descent, with probably the best (or should I say “most decent”) snow left around here.
Claudia and I took a hike up the Surenen valley on Sunday. This is the main valley that continues past Engelberg, quickly becoming deeply entrenched amongst towering glaciated mountain walls, eventually culminating in the massively broad cloverleaf basin of Blacken.
Here’s a panoramic view of the west side of Blacken, as seen from a small chapel in the center of the basin where we spent an hour or so eating lunch and relaxing in the sun. Titlis is peeking out at the far left.
Last Thursday I joined Kevin, an Engelberg-American pal, for a high ski/splitboard traverse through the rugged peaks north of Engelberg. We traveled through seven basins, crossing over 3 glaciers and 4 high passes along the way, with a long descent at the end.
Today I took the train down valley from Engelberg and met up with a new splitboarding buddy who lives in Bern. We checked out a ski zone accessible by a small cable car, and ended up scoring a beautiful untracked 800m powder descent! Continue reading “Niederrickenbach”→
This was taken from a reservoir at the end of town, which doesn’t seem to ever freeze due to constant inflow from a hydroelectric facility buried in the mountainside. The 30-second exposure turned out much differently than I had imagined, due to the overpowering colors of the street lamps. But I still like it!
The snow gods have blessed us with bountiful powder the last three days in Engelberg. Thursday was my first full-on powder day here, and… well… what can I say… this place rocks! Friday was a tough day… uber deep powder… knee-deep… chest-deep… but no visibility… none… total foggy whiteout. It was brail survival riding just to make it down the marked pistes. So Friday was a bust, but all the off piste remained untouched due to the whiteout, so Saturday… Saturday was full harvest in action. The weekend warriors were out in force, but even the shitshow crowds of powder hounds missed a few large stashes which I was happy to shred until the end of the day. So, when’s the next storm???
Here are a couple worthy photos from the Titlis webcam, at 3,020m (9,900 ft.) elevation, at the top of the Engelberg ski area. It’s been dumping snow the last several days in a highly localized storm which has been socked in from the north but never really made it over the main spine of the Alps. (I noticed that webcams from Zermatt, which is not that far away really, have been showing bluebird skies this whole time). Anyhow, the webcam photo above is from Friday evening, as the storm started to taper off. The clouds had lowered below the peaks at sunset, and oh, how I wish I was there at that moment to take a photo myself!
Another worthy webcam photo. Yes, my camera and I would have enjoyed this as well. All day today there was a cloud-deck at around the 1800m elevation. Snowing below in Engelberg; bright and sunny above on the higher peaks. This is one of my favorite weather phenomena; there’s something so amazing about being on a mountainous island in the sky, with an ocean of clouds below.
This cloud “inversion” is actually a very common occurrence in the mountains around Engelberg. And already in the two weeks I’ve been here, I’ve experienced this on numerous days, when I’ve wished I could be up high for sunrise or sunset, but instead am relegated to viewing it later in the day, or via webcam. The challenge is that these mountains are BIG – up to around 6,500 vertical feet above the town of Engelberg. Staying up at the top of the ski area for sunset is not practical at all (which you’d know if you’ve been here). Getting up early and hiking all the way up one of these mountains for sunrise would be an all-night affair, much of which would be in the cloudy mist- also not practical. The only other obvious option is winter camping. Too bad I didn’t bring all my winter camping gear with me to Europe (which would have nearly doubled my luggage size).
I’m wracking my brains trying to figure out a way that I can photograph these inversions at sunrise or sunset. It’s especially tormenting knowing that they are so common here, but yet so difficult to attain! But, that’s the photographer in me speaking… the snowboarder in me, in the meantime, has been having a blast in all the fresh powder!